Sunday, October 21, 2012

Random tirade about teenagers on TV

I've been watching season 3 of Parenthood on Netflix lately. I like the show; I'm a sucker for this kind of drama. Granted, there are things about it that rub me a little wrong, but overall I enjoy watching it.

You know what I can't stand though? Haddie. If you haven't seen the show, it follows the (oh, I don't know) dramatic misadventures?... of a group of four siblings, their families, and their parents. In current, post 20th century word-mashing hipness, it's a dramedy. Whatever. Haddie is the teenage daughter of one of the siblings.

So why don't I like her? She is a selfish twit. Yeah ok, she has a brother with Aspergers and I'm sure that's hard. And her parents had a surprise pregnancy, so at 17 she has a new baby sister. Big whup. In every scene she's defensive, passive-aggressive and blows off her parents attempts to be a part of her life in pretty much every way. She's not even the black makeup wearing, smoking, bad-grade getting, "troubled" teen in the show. She's supposed to be the good girl, the achiever. Granted, they've characterized her as being "imperfect," but I think they are going for more of a "this is normal for a teenage girl, get with it you prudes," when she starts having sex with her older boyfriend. gets drunk at a party and treats her parents like dirt.

In the episode I just watched, she gets into Cornell, which is super exciting for her family. Good job, kid. But then her parents start talking about how expensive it is ($60,000 a year? holy schnikeys) and privately they agree they need to talk to her about the possibility that she can't go.

Hold up, there. Your daughter applied to go to a $60k a year school and you're just now going to talk about money with her? Um, hello? Does anyone else think that's a little backward?

Ok, so they tell her that finances might be an issue, so ask her to "keep her options open." She immediately shuts down, starts giving them the "it's FINE, go away," bit, which of course actually means, "I hate you and you always let me down."

I'm sorry miss thing, but if having a brother with Aspergers and a new baby in the family hasn't taught you that you aren't the center of the universe, I don't know if anything will.

Instead of realizing sometimes reality bites and you have to live with it, she's bitter. She's bitter and angry that her brother is a mess and her parents had another baby - but mostly the brother thing. "Max needs something, so I don't get to go to the school that I want." Well boo hoo!

Is this what teenagers are like? Someone please tell me there is hope and my children will not be this self absorbed. This character has no sense of loyalty to her family beyond what they can do for her, she is bitter and angry about the way her family has turned out because it is inconvenient for her and the passive-aggressive thing she does whenever her parents try to reach her. Oh my word.

Ok, obviously I'm getting way too worked up over a silly TV show. But it isn't just the show - this makes me look at the state of our culture and want to cry. Because this is how we're raising our children. Ok, certainly not all of us by any stretch. But this show is like a big secular culture extravaganza, and honestly, it makes me so sad.

Because this is how families with no faith suffer. This is how families with no faith go astray. They have nothing to ground them, nothing to guide their path. Their children so often grow up with no sense of sacrifice, no sense of giving to others, no sense of taking one for the team as being a part of life.

At the end, the father was poised to tell her it was a definite no, that they can't do it. But he takes one look at her sad little face and relents, telling her they will do whatever it takes for her to go. Sigh. Yeah, because making sure she's drowning in debt is a great idea, but at least she won't be shooting you dirty looks across the dinner table anymore. Until the next thing doesn't go her way.

I desperately hope I can do a better job with my kids. I know it's possible; I know a few teenagers and young adults who do get the importance of the family, who do get that sometimes we have to sacrifice for each other; who do understand that they aren't the center of the universe and that bad things coming their way isn't always just about them. And what do you know, they're all from families with faith. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying families without faith can't be great families and raise great kids. I'm sure it happens. (And I know families with faith don't always have strong families either). But without faith, you're driving through life with no map, no compass, and absolutely no sense of where you're even going. Some get lucky, and that's great. But a lot of people don't and that makes me sad.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On busyness and filling our time

Life with kids is busy.

Whether they work outside the home, stay home full time, or some combination; whether they drive carpool to school, put kids on a bus, or homeschool - parents are busy. From morning till night, parents live in a crazy world of preparing meals, dressing, correcting, loving, reading, playing, watching and otherwise being with their kids.

During my oldest son's kindergarten year, when I was staunchly trying to avoid the little voice in my head that was trying to get me to think about homeschooling, one of my main fears and objections (when I would allow myself to consider the possibility), was that I was too busy to homeschool. How could I possibly fit it in? It would be so much work!

In fact, that's one of the things people often say to me when the subject comes up. "I could never homeschool! I don't have time! I don't know how you do it!" That, along with "I don't have the patience," probably tops the list of responses I get when I mention I homeschool.

I was thinking about that today - about how concerned I was about the busyness of homeschooling. But the truth is, I don't know that I'd feel any less busy if my kids were attending school. Granted, maybe if you added up the time I spend doing things all day, every day, there would be less to do if I wasn't homeschooling. But in terms of how I feel about it? I don't know that I'd feel some overabundance of time if I wasn't homeschooling.

Granted, my life feels crazy busy a lot of the time. But if I was sending the kids to traditional school, there would be early mornings to get everyone up and dressed, lunches to be made, and kids to hurry off to school. My daughter would still be home with me, and there would still be errands to run, things to do at home, and a child to entertain. This year, with a kinder and a 2nd grader, school pick up would be at two different times. Then afternoons full of homework and trying to fit in any other activities or interests. Dinner, a little time after, and the bedtime routine would follow.

I bet I'd collapse into bed just as tired as I am now.

I think very often, we let our tasks fill up the space we have. If we have 5 things to do, it could take all day, even if we're capable of accomplishing 10. But when we have those 10 things to do, we make it happen (or sometimes not - case in point, laundry in this house). After a while with more to accomplish in a day, you grow accustomed to it, and it becomes the new normal. Sort of like once you've had several children, you wonder what was so hard about parenting one. But parenting one child did seem to take up all the time in the day, yet people manage to add one, two, three, four, or more to their families. We fill the time we have.

Just some random musings today I guess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Because I said so!"

Have you ever found yourself, usually in a moment of frustration with your kids, echoing the words of your own parents? Whether it be "First name, middle name!" or "Because I said so!" or perhaps, "There are starving people in the world who would be happy to have that dinner!".... it probably makes you cringe, at least a little. Maybe a lot.

But sometimes they just give you good ideas.

When I was a kid, probably around 10 years old, my younger brother and I were with my dad (divorced parents, we lived with Dad on weekends). We tended to bicker quite a bit and at some point, my dad had had enough. He tape recorded us fighting and then made us listen to it. I still remember it, all these years later. It was so horrifying, to hear my awful little voice whining at my brother over absolutely nothing. I hated it so much, I remember begging him to turn it off. I'm sure it didn't stop us from fighting forever, but I bet the rest of our weekend was darn right peaceful.

Tonight my oldest son was gearing up for a little bedtime dramatics. He was completely fine until the second I was closing the door, when suddenly out of nowhere, he had a "weird feeling in his throat." Oh boy. We've been through this particular "situation" a couple of times in the last few months. Weird feeling in throat leads to overly dramatic freak out session wherein child believes he has either been poisoned, has some sort of inexplicable disorder in which he will not be able to continue breathing once he falls asleep, despite the fact that he has always been completely healthy, or some other equally ridiculous concoction. The poor kid has just the right personality/temperament/physiology combination for these kinds of bedtime hysterics (and I mean hysterics - the first time he pulled the "weird throat thing" it took forever to calm him down). He's a worrier by nature, and coupled with being rather bright and inquisitive along with extraordinarily sensitive to being even the least bit sleep deprived.. it's a recipe for nighttime meltdowns. (Not that this is typical behavior, really - but he tends to be the boy who cried "something is wrong with me!" so we're pretty well versed in his brand of drama.)

Tonight I tried to convince him that he was fine (since the other time he's had a "weird feeling in his throat" he's been completely fine physically), but he was headed down the too-upset-to-reason-with road on a fast track to meltdown-city. He followed me out when I attempted to just leave the room (to say I was highly frustrated would be an understatement), and despite my ordering him back to bed, he stood there half-crying and looking at me like I was supposed to wave a magic wand and make him feel better. That, or let him get up and hang out until he feels better. (Sorry buddy, ain't happenin').

Then it occurred to me - the camera. I quickly grabbed my little point and shoot, clicked it to "video" and before I could point it at him, he'd bolted, attempting to hide in his closet. I followed him in, recording, and by the time his brother had dug him out from behind a blanket, we were all laughing. I didn't wind up recording any whining or whimpering or random questions about whether something might be in his throat that will inexplicably grow during the night, rendering him unable to speak in the morning. But the very thought of me recording him in a state of upset was enough for him to decide to let it go and calm down. As I left the room for the second time, he gave me a little shrug and smile that said, "Yeah, I know."

Thinking back on my Dad's trick, all I have to say is - well played Dad, well played.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Focusing on the positive

I've started, deleted and restarted posts several times today, mostly with the theme of "woe is me because...." I've had a stressful day, coming off a stressful weekend and tomorrow and the next day have some big hurdles in store. But in the spirit of keeping things in perspective, here are my reasons that the crappy stuff in my way right now is actually good.

1. My van is in the shop overnight and the exact words of the guy at the dealership were, "It certainly isn't going to be cheap, but...." HOWEVER, unless this amounts to more than my van is actually worth, we have the money to handle this and it won't be going on a credit card. This is HUGE for us.

2. Still on the topic of the van, we've had it for 5 years and we've never really put any serious money into it. We're pushing 100,000 miles and it has been a great vehicle. So even if it does put us back quite a bit, it isn't really that bad, all things considered.

3. And at least I have a reliable vehicle to use. And so does my husband.

4. My husband just finished up a Lego convention over the weekend. My stress over it is how much money he wound up spending on gas and food and everything else. Ouch. HOWEVER, he had a really great time and it was a nice break for him. He appreciated me being supportive of him going and it was a well-deserved bit of frivolity for a guy who works his butt off for his family.

5. Plus, his castle overlooking a medieval village creation that he built won Best Castle and came in second for Best in Show. Sa-weet!
Yes, he built this. Out of Legos. And yes, he is a grown up. Technically.
6. Despite having to be gone half the day to take my van to the dealer, we managed to get in a full day worth of schoolwork and both boys cooperated quite well. All things considered, that part of the day went rather smoothly.

7. Tomorrow I have to somehow finagle my schedule, my kids, carseats, and a shuttle ride to get my van back since my husband has to commute to his office (60 miles away). HOWEVER, my bestie (who also lives right next door) has my back and between the two of us, we're going to make it work.

8. My oldest son has get-cavities-filled-take-2 on Wednesday morning. We attempted to get them filled last month and he freaked out so badly, we left without even getting his mouth numb. It was horrible. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dentist appointment. And we have to attempt it again Wednesday morning. HOWEVER, my wonderful, wonderful husband is taking the morning off work to take him so I don't have to. And he's better than I am at getting through to our son when he's in freak-out mode, so I'm hopeful that they'll come home sans holes in teeth.

9. This Friday is our trip to the pumpkin patch with our homeschool group. No "howevers" there - I'm just looking forward to it.

10. Money wise, this month is going to be really tight - between the Lego convention and the van and my son's cavities, not to mention dealing with the bills for my other son's recent ER visit (OMGosh, how could it cost THAT much?!?!). HOWEVER, I think this is giving us a HUGE opportunity to face our bad financial habits and deal with them. It is going to mean making some changes in our spending, keeping careful track of what we've spent, and actually using that information to change our behavior. We're bad at all that. But we've managed to claw ourselves out of credit card debt, we have enough of a cushion to weather a couple of blows (the van, for example) and I am DETERMINED to ride out this month and actually stick to our plan. We made the plan together, so we're both on board - we just need to face that for things to change, we have to actually change. It is giving me a chance to look at what I spend money on and think about what is really important. Do I really need that? Can I manage without? Can I just cook dinner instead of grabbing take out? Can we make do with less? We need to, for spiritual reasons as much as financial ones. I'm hopeful that even though this month is going to be tough, it will be tough in a good way and we'll come out the other side feeling good about having managed it well.

Phew. That post was much better to write than the whiny ones I kept starting.